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2023 AFC North Team Needs and Draft Prospect Fits

Jaxon Smith-Njigba

Jaxon Smith-Njigba

Joshua A. Bickel/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

Kyle Dvorchak breaks down the positional needs of every AFC North team and some of the best prospects they could look to target in the 2023 NFL Draft.

Cincinnati Bengals

Needs: Safety, Cornerback, and Tight End

Top Picks: 28, 60, and 92

The Bengals’ big splash in free agency was the Orlando Brown signing. Their secondary, in turn, took a massive hit. They lost starting safeties Vonn Bell and Jessie Bates while only replacing them with Nick Scott from the Rams. Cornerbacks Eli Apple and Tre Flowers are also free agents, though neither player has signed a new contract yet.

Cincy going tight end in Round 1 would be incredibly fun. If they want an elite pass-catcher, Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer and Utah’s Dalton Kincaid both fit the bill. With how much of a priority protecting Joe Burrow has been for them, Georgia’s Darnell Washington, an extra tackle who can also catch passes, would be a great fit. Their best bet at safety will come on Day 2. Alabama’s Jordan Battle is strong in coverage and could slot in as a starter in Week 1. The Bengals can take a year to develop a corner, pushing that need into the second day of the draft and beyond. Darius Rush of South Carolina has an incredible combination of size and speed, but his technique is still a work in progress. He could be an eventual replacement for Chidobe Awuzie, who is a free agent in 2024.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Needs: Offensive Tackle, Linebacker, and Cornerback

Top Picks: 17, 32, and 49

Cam Sutton left for Detroit as a free agent but Pittsburgh managed to replace him with Patrick Peterson. They will still be eying a cornerback early, but Peterson at least gives them a short-term solution. The Steelers’ made a considerable effort to improve their offense in free agency, but that manifested in the addition of left guard Isaac Seumalo. Tackle has to be on the radar for Day One of the draft.

Tennessee’s Darnell Wright got better every year at Tennessee and put his best work on tape after switching to the left side for 2022. He did not allow a sack as a senior. North Dakota State’s Cody Mauch will be available later in the draft. Mauch was dominant in the FCS and is missing his front teeth, which is a Steeler trait if I’ve ever seen one. Getting cornerback Joey Porter Jr. in the first round would be all too fitting for Pittsburgh, but his recent stock rise may see him come off the board before 17. If they are willing to put him in the weight room for much of his rookie season, Emmanuel Forbes could be a great stash on the second night of the draft. At linebacker, Noah Sewell, Penei Sewell‘s younger brother, would be a great rotational player as a rookie and could earn a starting role down the road. He possesses elite pass-rush chops for an inside linebacker, perfect for a Pittsburgh defense that blitzed at the sixth-highest rate last year.

Cleveland Browns

Needs: Inside Linebacker, Defensive Tackle, and Safety

Top Picks: 74, 98, and 111

Despite adding Dalvin Tomlinson, Cleveland could still use another body in the trenches and Elijah Moore‘s career so far still leaves many questions unanswered. The Browns will use a mix of two and three-linebacker looks under defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. They brought back Anthony Walker on a one-year deal but could still use another option at strongside linebacker.

The Browns would be thrilled to see Baylor’s hulking nose tackle Siaki Ika available with their first pick. He has the size of a 3-4 nose tackle but the pass-rush chops of a more versatile lineman. Looking deeper into Day Two, Boise State’s JL Skinner may need some time to develop but could be an eventual replacement for Grant Delpit at safety. Given the NFL’s decreased value placed on the linebacker position, it makes the most sense for Cleveland to push that need down their board. Cincinnati’s Ivan Pace could slip based on his modest size, but he graded as an elite run-stuffer in 2022 while recording the second-most run-stops in the country per Pro Football Focus.

Baltimore Ravens

Needs: Wide Receiver, Cornerback, and Defensive End

Top Picks: 22, 86, and 124

I’ll push forward as if the Ravens aren’t in a cold war with their former MVP quarterback, but any move involving Lamar Jackson could change the calculus of their draft prep. Baltimore cut Calais Campbell this offseason and Justin Houston is an unsigned free agent. With both Broderick Washington and Justin Madubuike entering contract years, defensive end is an obvious target for them in the first few rounds. Wide receiver continues to be a glaring need as well. At corner, they will be looking to find a long-term starter to play opposite Marlon Humphrey.

The Ravens need a receiver who can consistently earn targets over the middle of the field to counterbalance Rashod Bateman‘s recent success as a deep boundary player. Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Zay Flowers would flourish in that role while Xavier Hutchinson on Day Two is also an option. The only corner within five picks of Baltimore’s first-rounder in either direction is Deonte Banks, who coincidentally went to Maryland. Georgia’s Nolan Smith—Eric Froton’s No. 3 EDGE—is the type of super-athlete I could see the Ravens eying at EDGE with their first pick, though I ultimately think they put this need off until at least the second round. If Baltimore is looking for a larger body to put on the end of their line, Notre Dame’s Isaiah Foskey may still be there at 86.